The American Revolution in North Carolina

Gholson's Farm

January 7, 1782

Patriot Cdr:

Capt. Charles Gholson
Loyalist Cdr:

Col. David Fanning






Original County: 

Chatham County
Present County:

Chatham County

In December of the previous year, Col. Elijah Isaacs had sacked Loyalist Col. David Fanning's base camp at Cox's Mill then moved westward, with Fanning capturing any stragglers. Col. Isaacs was well aware of Col. Fanning's presence and he placed covering forces behind to ambush the pursuing Loyalists.

Col. Fanning was not fooled and in turn he hunted those men down, killing two and wounding many others. He continued after that and managed to kill two more of Col. Isaacs's men.

As a company commander in the Chatham County Regiment of Militia, Capt. Charles Gholson was one of the Patriots being pursued by Col. Fanning. Capt. Gholson's company stopped at a Loyalists house and began plundering the property when Col. Fanning found them. Capt. Gholson immediately fled, but one of his men was captured. Col. Fanning hanged the prisoner and continued chasing Capt. Gholson, but was unable to catch the Patriot.

In retaliation, Col. Fanning rode to Capt. Gholson's home and burned the farm. The Loyalists burned two more houses near Gholson's farm. As a final touch, Col. Fanning executed "a man who had been very anxious" to have some of his Loyalists executed.

During his return to his base camp at Cox's Mill in Randolph County - just west of Chatham County, Col. Fanning captured John Thompson, a "Rebel magistrate." He forced Thompson to take a message to Acting Governor Alexander Martin - if the Patriots did not cease their harrassment of the Loyalists he would retaliate in kind with more executions.

Col. Fanning learned from John Thompson that some of the other Loyalist leaders, Col. Archibald McDugald and Col. Hector McNeill, had taken refuge in South Carolina. Fanning hoped for a peace in North Carolina and offered the authorities his terms. He demanded that all Loyalists be allowed to return to their homes unmolested. He also wanted the Loyalists to be under no restrictions to do anything against the Royal government and to not have to pay any taxes to support the war against the King. Col. David Fanning's demands were:

1) That every friend of the Government [i.e., the Crown] shall be allowed to return to their respective homes unmolested.

2) That they shall be under no restrictions of doing, or causing to be done, anything prejudicial to his Majesty's service.

3) That they shall not be under an obligation to act in any public station, or ever to take up arms, or be compelled to do anything injurious to his Majesty's good government.

4) That they shall not pay, or cause to be paid, any taxes or money so levied by your laws during the continuance of the present war, to support your army by their industry.

If these terms are granted, I request that they mas be immediately conveyed to me at my quarters by a flag of truce, appointed for that purpose, and by such officers as I can rely upon, from your hands and seals. If these terms are not granted you may depend upon my sword being continually unsheathed; as I am determined I will not leave one of your old offenders alive that has injured his Majesty's Government, and friends who would have been of service to your country in a future day, and I do hereby recommend it to you to govern yourselves accordingly.

Jan. 7th, 1782
David Fanning

Several Patriot leaders were supportive of the prospect for peace - they were tired of the constant fighting. They took the terms to Brigadier General John Butler of the Hillsborough District Brigade of Militia.

The killing went on while negotiations ensued. In the meantime, one of Fanning's men, Capt. William Lindley, quit the Loyalist militia and went to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Three former comrades followed and hacked him to death. Col. Fanning found out and had two of the killers, William White and John Magaherty, hanged. The third man escaped into the wilderness.

On February 11th, Col. Fanning was supposed to meet with a group of Patriots at Baalam Thompson's home near the Wilcox Iron Works. He was under a flag of truce to discuss his terms for peace, but Capt. Charles Gholson and Capt. Robert Scobey were waiting in ambush for him to ride by. John Thompson warned Fanning and averted a disaster.

After this, Col. Fanning did not trust the Patriots and no longer considered peace as an option.

Known Patriot Participants

Known British/Loyalist Participants

Capt. Charles Gholson - Chatham County Regiment

Unknown number of men

Col. David Fanning - Commanding Officer

Unknown number of Loyalists

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